This past Sunday, I found myself in a place where you would not
expect someone of my political philosophy. I attended the IUPUI Black Student
Union annual Martin Luther King Day Dinner to hear a speech by former Black,
now very gray, Panther Bobby Seale. I'll give you a moment to pick yourself up
off the floor.
I was invited by my editors here at NUVO to attend. I wasn't
sure if I was going to go at first. After all, I have never been a big fan of
organizations based on identity politics, much less liberal ones. And with all
due respect to Mr. Seale, there really wasn't anything I would expect him to
say about the 1960s and 70s that I couldn't hear from my uncle after a few
beers at a family gathering. However, there was one story he told that I
actually thought should have been the cornerstone of his address.
Seale told a story about how he and fellow Panther Huey Newton,
concerned about police brutality, would take their members down to monitor
police activity. They would be armed, but they followed the law down to the
letter. They were careful not to interfere with police making arrests and, when
confronted, Newton would cite the relevant California Supreme Court case law
and police would back off and let them stay.
I found that to be interesting and ironic, because it is rare
that you hear about revolutionaries using the rule of law to make a point. And this is something that I think has
been lost on much of black leadership, particularly here in the state of
I spend quite a bit of time arguing with individuals about what
opportunities there are for blacks in the Hoosier state. And every time I keep
going back to the point that if you are black, can show up for work on time and
not speak English like it's your second language, the doors will open for you
like its nobody's business. But you have to show up and you have to learn the
During my college years, whether it was Northern Illinois
University, the University of Illinois or St. Louis University School of Law, I
was always butting heads with the professional whining class who complain about
the numbers of blacks who were either in jail, dropping out or facing some
other societal ill. The fingers pointed in every direction except for at the
individual who should have taken some responsibility for his or her actions —
by not breaking into someone's home, buckling down and studying hard or just
realizing that if all this counterproductive behavior isn't working for
everyone else, it will not work for them either. Amazing how the more things
change, the more they stay exactly the same.
The opportunities are endless for blacks, just like anyone
else, if you are willing to show up and learn the rules of the game and start
playing. I have never been a revolutionary; I just decided to learn the rules.
Who would have thought that a 1960s black revolutionary and a modern conservative
columnist would ever have something like that in common?